SCREEN PRINTING 101 | SCREEN PRINTING SUPPLIES
disclaimer: All suggestions are based on our experiences are opinions only. Should you purchase something through any of the links in this blog post, it may result in a small commission to me. Thank you for your support & happy printing!
A LITTLE ABOUT ME:
I own a small graphic t-shirt shop, but my husband helped me get started. Shout out to the dreamer supporters!! I’ll be honest & say that I’m good at talking the talk, but my husband is usually holding my hand while I’m trying to walk the walk, lol!
A NOTE TO SOMEONE WANTING TO GET STARTING WITH A SMALL SHOP, BUT NOT SURE HOW:
My small shop was a labor of love & if it’s something you’re considering, I say PRAY & PLAN.
I read the Business Boutique by Christy Wright & it has so much useful (& most important applicable) information! I also have a minor in Business. I’m not saying you need a degree, no. I am saying that it’s been something I knew was on my heart from long ago. I just didn’t know it would be t-shirts lol! Regardless of my degree, or a book on how-to’s, the best experience I’ve had, hands-down, has been hands-on! Google & YouTube were our best friends when we first started & there is no shame in our ‘search’ game, lol!
Two words I have for you, GO GIRL! Or GO BOY! This is me routing for you!
side note: I’m not saying running a small shop and/or printing t-shirts is going to be easy, but I had to decide how badly I wanted it & that’s how I got HERE.
I would say if you mess up, TRY & TRY AGAIN. If you don’t mess up, way to go!
I’ll be sure to do a follow-up blog post on t-shirts & how we were able to purchase Bella + Canvas shirts. If you’re shopping for shirts & haven’t nailed down a brand you love yet, I highly suggest watching this YouTube video on the Bella + Canvas brand. We didn’t qualify to buy directly from them because of our small platform, however, there are distributors that supply Bella Canvas. I’ll explain more in my next post!
LET’S TALK STARTER KITS FOR A SECOND:
Let’s get started, with starter kits. We bought one because our goal was minimal investment. This is the starter kit we purchased initially. It’s very cost-effective, but questionable quality. We had to re-buy some of the equipment in the starter-kit which means we probably spent more money, in the long run.
I would suggest, before buying anything, do your research by reading reviews. Or by asking other screen printers what their experiences were with the equipment they used getting started. I would also suggest looking for a local screen printing supply store to ask questions & see what they have to offer. This is something I plan to do as we expand & are ready to invest in more equipment.
Another option, if you’re on a budget, is to get equipment second hand on sites like Offer Up, LetGo, etc.
HERE IS A QUICK IGTV THAT SHOWS SOME BASICS OF OUR SMALL SHOP SET-UP
Here are some supplies to get started screen printing your own graphic t-shirts:
This platform is sturdy and does the job, however the t-shirts do move on the board because there is a distance between the shirt & the screen. My husband engineered something to put under the t-shirt to make it more sturdy. I have seen other companies suggest adhesive spray. This is something to consider when purchasing this platform. It’s the only one we’ve used & we are happy with the results.
My husband also marks the platform for each screen so he knows which print goes where, etc. There’s some math in getting a t-shirt to print in the same place every time.
If you’re trying to save money, this would definitely be something you might find second hand, before buying it brand new.
I wish we’d started off with the better quality screens, to avoid pitfalls in the beginning. We are now converting to these screens and are thrilled with the quality.
We paint the screen with emulsion (see eco-tex in #4 — below!) & keep it in the dark for 24 hours before we expose the screen to the sun with the transparency film paper. This gives the emulsion time to dry. Sometimes they stay in there for longer, which doesn’t seem to hurt the process.
I would say to look through the instructions that come with the screens & the emulsion to avoid any errors and/or issues.
My husband measures the image to the screen, with a t-shirt first, before he burns the image to the screen. This way each graphic prints in the same place on each shirt.
This is the paper you’re going to use to print your image on. We use our standard ink-jet printer to print the image & have had much success with it. You must make sure you’re using the highest-quality print option, in your settings. The darker the image, the better quality graphic you’re going to burn into the screen, which means a better quality graphic will paint onto the t-shirt.
We use the squeegees that came with our screen-printing starter kit, but I found a lot of options on Amazon, like these. I couldn’t find an exact match for the ones we use, but these looked like a close match. I would say to read the reviews or visit a local screen printing supply store to see exactly how things feel.
If you want to recycle a screen, or happen to mess up, you can remove the emulsion with emulsion remover.
We love our encouraging t-shirts & you can shop them here! Screen printing has been a great creative outlet for us.
I highly suggest setting a budget for your small shop & investing as you go. There are other expenses that came up, in the beginning regarding taxes & licensing & again, research, research, research!
My #1 suggestion would be to build a budget!
Second, determine your brand values. One of my values for 2019 was trust. This meant I knew I wanted to share more behind the scenes & be more transparent in showing how we print! Taking videos is not my strong-suit, but I’ll do what I can & I hope you’re encouraged to stick around!
Third, research the products and t-shirts you plan to purchase.
Last, ask lots of questions! In the beginning I reached out to a few small shops I noticed online & they were really helpful! It’s how I found Bella + Canvas & it’s how I started on Etsy. I won my website template from another business that I found out about, all by word of mouth marketing.
I’ve already seen so much growth, through the learning process & I’m hopeful for the future. I pray this blog aids you on your journey to screen printing!
We are not experts, but we are passionate about what we do. As always, thank you soooooo much for reading!
With grace & coffee,